A surprised DeWitt City Councilman Garey Chrones thrust his fists into the air in a celebratory way as if to say, “Hah! I get the decisive vote!”
In DeWitt, it’s rare to hear a council member cast a dissenting vote against a resolution or measure. The vote tallies usually are unanimous, 5-0.
And it’s virtually unheard of when the council turns away a proposal altogether. But on Monday, an extraordinarily long line of successful motions — possibly extending years — came to an end.
The issue that led to the impasse might surprise some folks. With Chrones’ third and decisive “no” vote, the council voted to revisit one change to the city’s personnel policies — on Page 23 of the “Compensations and Deductions” section.
There was no discussion about proposals to revise some antiquated numbers and word usage on Page 23. But a proposed change in the way city workers are paid led to a request for more information when the issue is revisited.
The proposed revision called for the elimination of payroll checks in paper form. The revision would mean that the city would only compensate employees via direct deposits in their bank accounts.
“We kind of look at this like we did when we debated whether we would purchase credit card-reading machines at all of our locations,” said City Administrator Steve Lindner. “In this case, we’re wondering if it’s unnecessary to do issue paper checks when only a handful of people are doing it anymore.”
Five city employees signed a protest against eliminating paper checks. Two of the five workers did not want to receive their paychecks via direct deposit.
Three other employees signed a protest form to express their opposition to a longstanding policy by which employees could receive “reimbursement checks” via direct deposit.
No paper checks have been issued for longevity rewards, clothing allowances or “comp pay” since 2002, according to City Clerk Cathy Benthin. She said that the city has been using two different banks to distribute the different checks — payroll vs. reimbursement — that called for different guidelines.
Although just three people publicly opposed the reimbursement setup, two department heads and Chrones said they knew of several people who felt disenfranchised by the direct deposit mandate for the reimbursements.
“Especially when we’re talking about longevity (a benefit acknowledging years of service), why can’t we just pay these folks with a paper check since we have that capability,” said Chrones, who said he knew at least five firefighters who were not receiving reimbursements because they did not want direct deposit.
Benthin said there would be quite a bit of work involved in continuing to issue paper checks because they would need to be “reformatted.”
Lindner said cost likely is not a big concern.
“I think we’re talking about hundreds of dollars in extra cost, not thousands of dollars,” he added.
But the question remains: Is the expense worth it to make a handful of people happy?
“It’s personal preference, for the most part,” Lindner added. ‘We’ll need to get some more information to the council when we revisit this.”
In other developments, the council:
• Approved the release of a lien against the homeowner at 211 8th Street.
• Approved special-event application and street closure for the 32nd annual Autumn Fest (Sept. 20).
• Approved special-event application and street closure for DeWitt’s Great Pumpkin Fest (Oct. 13).
• Approved alley closure for St. Joseph’s Fall Festival (Sept. 15).
• Approved street closure for Central DeWitt Homecoming Parade (Thursday,
• Approved replacement of City Hall alarm panel and agreed to discuss annual inspections at a later date.
• Approved the third and final reading that grants to Interstate Power & Light Company, its successors and assigns, a non-exclusive 25-year franchise to acquire, construct, erect, maintain and operate an Electric System in the city of DeWitt.
• Approved the library’s application for an Alliant Energy Community Grant for Lite Bright Wall.